There’s a lot of reasons ITMI’s Daria and Viorel Pop shouldn’t have devoted the last couple decades to caring for disabled elderly widows.
The Pops appear to be an ordinary Romanian couple living in Arad, Romania. Like the most in their country, they continue to face the financial restraint of living in a post-communist economy.
Daria and Viorel both face challenges with their own health that continue to advance as they age. But Daria and Viorel Pop are still faithfully caring for elderly widows at Bethesda Home.
ITMI's Daria Pop, serving with joy.
Why are they still providing care for Sida, Moni, Ita, Mariana and Ani?
There’s actually a few reasons, and they are significantly more compelling than the reasons not to.
1. The need is great.
If you lived in a communist economy during the productive working years of your life, those years were filled with want. It was all you could do to provide for the basic necessities for your family.
Saving for retirement was a lower priority than survival.
Even if you had saved your entire income, it was so meager that it wouldn’t have been enough to pay for full-time elder care when you needed it. Many elderly today must survive on their government pension alone.
“Here in Romania, a lot of old people are very poor because the pension is very small,” Daria explains. The widowed survive on one pension. If they don’t have family that can care for them, it becomes a dire situation.
Some are able to pay for care in government homes, which are known for their abuse and deplorable conditions. But many can’t even afford that.
Research is showing that ten thousand doctors left Romania in 2017 and 2018. That was after 43,000 left in the decade after Romania joined the EU (2007-2017).
The impoverished and elderly feel this pinch when they are in need of care. Daria and Viorel saw the needs around them, and they began taking care of widows, because someone needed to.
And then, something amazing happened.
2. Sida, Moni, Ita, Mariana and Ani are like family to Daria and Viorel.
They would no sooner turn away from a member of their family than see one of these ladies left with no one to care for them.
From day one, they are part of a family.
You can see it in the way they smile at Daria. They truly belong. At Bethesda, they’ve gone from alone and struggling, to cared for and a member of a family.
3. They are close to the Lord’s heart when serving the vulnerable and the widowed.
For us believers, it’s no secret, the best way to thrive is to be close to the Lord. A great way to be close to the Lord is to be close to the people He is close to.
His Word tells us that the Lord is close to the suffering.
“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
And the widowed.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5
“The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow…” Psalm 146:9
So, as they care for elderly disabled widows, the Pops are pressing into the Lord’s heart and experiencing incredible joy and blessings as a result.
4. Obedience in sharing the Gospel.
Daria and Viorel understand that caring for the elderly is part of our mission as believers. It’s one of our most powerful demonstrations of the Gospel.
In the context of post-communist Romania, where the population has grown up under the indoctrination of communist beliefs that advocate casting aside those who are weak and vulnerable, caring for the elderly is an especially powerful revelation of who God is.
Care for the elderly is a magnification of the character of God, who values people, His creation, not because of what they do or the value they contribute, but because they are His.
In fact, caring for the elderly is specifically a Christian contribution to the world.
In How Christianity Changed the World, Sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt noted, “One finds no evidence of homes for the aged in the years preceding Christianity.”
It was an outpouring of the change Christ brought into the world and into their own hearts that prompted early Christians to live out their new life in Christ by caring for the elderly and vulnerable that their pagan society around them cast aside.
It’s a practical way to display the beauty that is our Father.
While we were vulnerable, He protected us. While we were without a family, He adopted us. While we had nothing to offer Him, He gave His life for us.
Then He calls us to join Him.
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:16
Vio, Daria and the supporters who have faithfully stood with them and helped provide for the vulnerable widows have done just that.
5. Extending Benefits to the Body of Christ.
The widows benefit; they are cared for. The Pops benefit; they are close to the heart of God. The kingdom benefits; Jesus’ beauty is displayed for all and the Gospel demonstrated.
There’s one more compelling reason for the Pops to care for the elderly at Bethesda Home.
Their sacrifice offers a benefit to anyone belonging to the larger body of Christ.
The Pops ministry offers other believers the opportunity to draw near to the heart of the Lord and sacrificially care for the vulnerable and widowed.
To experience the blessing of being with Jesus, wherever He is, doing whatever He cares about.
To know the joy that results in being a participant in a demonstration of the Good News, that although we all once were vulnerable and had nothing to offer, Jesus cares deeply for us, He came after us, He gave His life that we might be cared for and welcomed in to a family.
This is something supporters of ITMI’s Bethesda Home have been privy to for years.
They’ve found a wonderful opportunity to be close to the heart of the Lord and be part of demonstrating what Jesus has done for them to many others.
Schmidt, Alvin J.. How Christianity Changed the World. Zondervan, 2004.
Walker, Shaun. “Romanian Hospitals in Crisis as Emigration Takes Its Toll.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Apr. 2019, www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/21/romanian-hospitals-in-crisis-as-emigration-take-its-toll.